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Poem by Oliver Goldsmith


Answer to an Invitation to Pass the Christmas at Barton


First, let me suppose, what may shortly be true,
The company set, and the word to be--loo;
All smirking, and pleasant, and big with adventure,
And ogling the stake which is fixd in the centre.
Round and round go the cards, while I inwardly damn,
At never once finding a visit from Pam.
I lay down my stake, apparently cool,
While the harpies about me all pocket the pool;
I fret in my gizzard--yet, cautious and sly,
I wish all my friends may be bolder than I:
Yet still they sit snug; not a creature will aim,
By losing their money, to venture at fame.
Tis in vain that at niggardly caution I scold,
Tis in vain that I flatter the brave and the bold;
All play their own way, and they think me an ass:
What does Mrs. Bunbury? I, sir? I pass.
Pray what does Miss Horneck? Take courage, come, do!
Who--I? Let me see, sir; why, I must pass, too.
Mr. Bunbury frets, and I fret like the Devil,
To see them so cowardly, lucky, and civil;
Yet still I sit snug, and continue to sigh on,
Till, made by my losses as bold as a lion,
I venture at all, while my avarice regards
The whole pool as my own, Come, give me five cards.
Well done! cry the ladies; ah! Doctor, thats good--
The pools very rich. Ah! the Doctor is lood.
Thus foild in my courage, on all sides perplext.
I ask for advice from the lady thats next.
Pray, Maam, be so good as to give your advice:
Dont you think the best way is to venture for t twice?
I advise, cries the lady, to try it, I own--
Ah! the Doctor is lood: come, Doctor, put down.
Thus playing and playing, I still grow more eager,
And so bold, and so bold, Im at last a bold beggar,
Now, ladies, I ask--if law matters you re skilld in,
Whether crimes such as yours should not come before Fielding?
For, giving advice that is not worth a straw,
May well be calld picking of pockets in law;
And picking of pockets, with which I now charge ye,
Is, by _Quinto Elizabeth_--death without clergy.
What justice! when both to the Old Bailey brought;
By the gods! Ill enjoy it, though tis but in thought,
Both are placd at the bar with all proper decorum,
With bunches of fennel and nosegays before em;
Both cover their faces with mobs and all that,
But the judge bids them, angrily, take off their hat.
When uncoverd, a buzz of inquiry runs round:
Pray what are their crimes? Theyve been pilfering found.
But, pray, whom have they pilferd? A Doctor, I hear.
What, that solemn-facd, odd-looking man that stands near?
The same. What a pity! How does it surprise one:
Two handsomer culprits I never set eyes on!
Then their friends all come round me, with cringing and leering,
To melt me to pity, and soften my swearing.
First, Sir Charlès advances, with phrases well strung:
Consider, dear Doctor, the girls are but young.
The younger the worse, I return him again;
It shows that their habits are all dyed in grain.
But then they re so handsome; ones bosom it grieves.
What signifies handsome, when people are thieves?
But where is your justice? their cases are hard.
What signifies justice? I want the reward.

Theres the parish of Edmonton offers forty pounds--theres the parish
of St. Leonard, Shoreditch, offers forty pounds--theres the parish of
Tyburn offers forty pounds: I shall have all that, if I convict them.

But consider their case, it may yet be your own;
And see how they kneel: is your heart made of stone?
This moves: so at last I agree to relent,
For ten pounds in hand, and ten pounds to be spent.

I challenge you all to answer this. I tell you, you cannot: it cuts
deep. But now for the rest of the letter: and next--but I want room--so
I believe I shall battle the rest out at Barton some day next week. I
dont value you all!

O. G.



Oliver Goldsmith


Oliver Goldsmith's other poems:
  1. On Seeing a Lady Perform a Certain Character
  2. From the Latin of Vida
  3. Song, from the Comedy of She Stoops to Conquer
  4. The Double Transformation
  5. A Sonnet


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